It all started at three in the morning for Mattie.
“My love for plants kind of happened. It just took off from one night over the summer,” Mattie said. “I started researching plants and landscaping until three in the morning. Then I began landscaping my parents’ yard back home.”
Schmidt, a junior and rhetoric and public address major, is now one of the assistant horticulturalists in Hillsdale College’s maintenance department.
Schmidt said her affinity for plants only began her sophomore year. Before getting a job with the maintenance department, Schmidt worked in the green house on campus.
Her roommate kept a lot of plants in their room. At first, Schmidt didn’t see the appeal of taking care of so many plants, but after going home for the summer, she discovered how interesting and enjoyable tending plants could be.
Her summer break consisted of “waking up, working out, and landscaping all day,” she said.
Schmidt said she continued her agricultural skills and knowledge of plants while working in the green house on campus last year. In one short semester, she developed her green thumb to that point that she pursued a position as assistant horticulturist.
“I enjoyed my time working in the green house and it definitely helped prepare for my work on campus this year,” Schmidt said.
As assistant horticulturist, Schmidt said she works in the Maintenance Department under Angie Girdham, taking “care of all of campus — all landscaping, irrigation, tree pruning, taking care of the arb — everything except the grass.”
Because it’s still winter, she spends most of her time creating plant labels for the summer sale conducting research on the history of the Arb. In the future, she explained, the Arb might become a museum, so she reads many of its documents to uncover its history.
In the spring and summer, Schmidt said, the department resumes more hands-on interaction with plants, more representative of a horticulturist’s duties. Schmidt has done a lot of work in the Children’s Garden, located between Olds Dormitory and the Barbour House. As the weather grows warmer, she intends to resume her work in the garden, including pulling weeds and sowing new plants once the weather allows it.
“She is certainly passionate about plants and her responsibilities in the garden,” Girdham, Schmidt’s boss, said. “That drive is very obvious to all of us around her. She is especially wonderful about getting people into the gardens — giving impromptu tours and introducing them to all the beautiful and often unnoticed details.”
Last fall, Schmidt worked in the Children’s Garden, growing produce like lettuce, kale, and radishes. In the future, she said, the garden hopes to add more plants and flowers to encourage more children to enjoy the garden in the warmer weather.
Schmidt doesn’t leave her green thumb at work. She enjoys growing plants at home with her roommate, junior Lauren Benson.
“We’re living in the Nest next year and we’re super excited to garden at the house,” Benson said. “Currently, our dorm room is filled with plants and dried flowers.”
Luciya Katcher, a fellow plant enthusiast and Schmidt’s friend, said their friendship grew through their mutual love of plants.
“We took shooting class together this past fall and the fall semester of the year before,” Katcher said. “While driving together, we would talk about our love of plants, and it became a special bonding experience for us. Mattie and I share the passion of making beautiful spaces and using plants in our own creative ways.”
Schmidt enjoys planting a wide variety of species and has become very familiar with all sorts of planting techniques while working on campus. She said her favorite types of plants are perennials.
“Perennials will not die in the fall and then rebloom every year like annuals,” Schmidt said. “They bloom in six to eight week periods, so you don’t have that color all summer long. I love perennials because they have such varied colors and provide such a beautiful setup with other plants based on how they fill in.”
She also especially enjoys peonies for their big blooms and sweet smell, as well as the challenge they present her.
“I always have trouble getting them to grow, because I tend to plant them too deep. So, it feels like an accomplishment when I get them to grow,” Schmidt said.
Mattie said that college is very academic and mental, so it is relaxing and balancing to have a contrast of producing something tangible.
“My love of plants grew from the love of having something you can see the actual outcome of,” Schmidt said. “It’s about being able to yield something.”